Is Capitol Reef National Park dog-friendly? Dogs might be called “man’s best friend,” but they can put a damper on travel plans since there are so many areas in the U.S. where dogs are simply not allowed. In this guide you’ll find tips for visiting Capitol Reef National Park with a dog so that you can plan accordingly and make the most of your trip if your southern Utah visit isn’t complete without your pet!
Is Capitol Reef National Park dog-friendly?
Are dogs allowed in Capitol Reef National Park? Yes. Pets are allowed in Capitol Reef National Park – with restrictions. (Service dogs have no restrictions in U.S. national parks.)
Whether you consider Capitol Reef National Park dog-friendly will depend on which capacity you want to explore the park.
By definition, U.S. national parks are not very dog-friendly areas. Your pet might be allowed into the park past the entrance gate, but you’ll quickly find out that most areas of the park are off-limits with your four-legged friend tagging along. That said… the way Capitol Reef is set up compared with many other national parks actually makes it a great place to visit even if you travel with your dog(s)!
Bonus points: Capitol Reef National Park is among the least visited southern Utah national parks, so you and your furry companion can enjoy your time here without running into swarms of tourists.
Where are dogs allowed in Capitol Reef National Park?
In a nutshell, Capitol Reef National Park allows leashed dogs everywhere cars can go and within 50 feet of the center of the road, in the campgrounds, on a couple of dog-friendly trails, and in main picnic areas and unfenced/unlocked orchards. Pets are not permitted on most hiking trails, in public buildings, in the backcountry areas, and can’t be left unattended in the campground.
Dogs must be leashed at all times (6 feet/1.8 meters or under).
Below is a detailed list of dog-friendly areas in Capitol Reef National Park you won’t want to miss!
Good to know: Most areas on this list require NO entry fees. The only fee charged in Capitol Reef National Park is for the use of the scenic drive.
#1 Capitol Reef campgrounds
Dogs are allowed in all Capitol Reef National Park campgrounds. There are 3 – Fruita Campground, the park’s only developed campground, and two primitive campgrounds in remote areas of the park.
The Fruita Campground is grassy and green and conveniently located to many Capitol Reef hot spots, including most dog-friendly activities on this list. The downside is that it’s generally in high demand, so if you’re visiting during the peak season (spring and fall) and haven’t secured a campsite here ahead of time, there may not be very many options left, if any.
(In that case, consider the alternatives. There are numerous fee-based as well as free camping options in/near Capitol Reef National Park to consider if the Fruita Campground has no spots available for your dates, and a few hotels in the nearby town of Torrey.)
Whether you stay at the Fruita Campground or elsewhere, this area of the park is surprisingly dog-friendly – for a national park! (Details below.)
#2 Fruita Historic District
The Fruita Rural Historic District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) was set up to protect what’s left of a small Mormon settlement that was active in this area from the late 1800s to 1950s.
The district contains a few original structures from that era and several fruit orchards the pioneer community used for food and income. It’s nestled in a lush valley among soaring red rock cliffs, and although the Fruita area spans over 200 acres altogether, the historical sites are located right along the road, making them accessible even to visitors with pets.
Dogs are allowed in Capitol Reef National Park within 50 feet of center line of roads that are open to public vehicle travel (applies to both paved and dirt roads).
In all fairness, 50 feet out in any direction from the middle of the road doesn’t give you THAT much room to roam, but it’s enough to see the sights.
Dog-friendly historic sites in Capitol Reef National Park:
- Gifford House/Fruita Barn
- Blacksmith Shop
- Fruita Schoolhouse
- Behunin Cabin
The Gifford House, Fruita Barn, and Blacksmith Shop are located in the same area.
- The Gifford House doubles as a museum and gift shop. It opens seasonally between March 14-October 31 (stop by for homemade pies and coffee if you can!). It’s part of the historic Gifford Homestead that includes the Fruita Barn.
- The Blacksmith Shop is 0.3 miles ahead along the same road. It’s furnished on the inside but outside viewing only, making it the perfect stop with your dog.
Getting here: the Gifford House and Fruita Barn are adjacent to the Fruita Campground (Loop A) and connected with the Blacksmith Shop via a dog-friendly footpath (Fruita Trail). Each site provides parking, and two convenient parking areas are available to explore Fruita on foot (picnic area & Gifford House; there are two parking lots at the Gifford House/Fruita Barn – the larger lot has no time restrictions and is suitable for large vehicles).
The Fruita Schoolhouse and the Behunin Cabin are located a short drive away from the central Fruita area of the park.
- The Fruita Schoolhouse is a small, one-room building. Perhaps it’s open some days, but on our visit in the peak season the doors were locked. Dogs wouldn’t be allowed inside anyway, but you can peak through the windows to get a glimpse of the interior.
- The Behunin Cabin is a tiny single-room sandstone dwelling, and one of the earliest homes built in the now protected historic district.
Getting here: the cabin and the schoolhouse are located east of the visitor center along Highway 24 in the direction of Hanksville, Utah. The Fruita Schoolhouse is 0.8 miles away, and the Behunin Cabin is located additional 5 miles past the school.
#3 Dog-friendly trails in Capitol Reef National Park
Only two hiking trails are open to pets in Capitol Reef National Park:
- a dog-friendly segment of the Fremont River Trail
- Fruita Trail
These two trails are in the same area and can easily be combined into one longer dog-friendly hike (up to 1.7 miles of trails one way).
Carry plenty of water with you: drinking water is available at the Gifford House, Fruita Campground, and the picnic area. (Water refill stations are marked on the map above.)
Dog-friendly section of the Fremont River Trail
The Fremont River Trail starts out as a flat path that skirts the Fremont River, before gaining elevation for panoramic views. Only about the first third of the trail is open to visitors with pets. That’s most of the flat section of the trail.
The trail parallels fruit orchards on the left side, followed by a horse pasture (Hattie’s Field). The river is on the other side and stays mostly hidden behind a thick growth that lines the river bank. Just south of the field you’ll come across a blockage on the trail – a wooden fence with a narrow pass-through slit, signifying where pet owners must turn around.
The trailhead for the Fremont River Trail is located just south of the amphitheater in the Loop C section of the Fruita Campground, but there are multiple other ways to join the trail. It’s just as easy to start at the Gifford House or at the picnic area for a little more distance. You can also access this trail from just about anywhere at the campground by heading towards the river and following the river path upstream/left to the trailhead.
The dog-friendly segment is only 0.3 miles long. Starting at the Gifford House adds 0.4 miles (round trip), and you can gain up to 0.6 miles additional distance (round trip) if you begin your walk at the picnic area/Blacksmith Shop (the trail continues all the way to the visitor center – details below).
As for the dog-friendly section of the Fremont River Trail, it’s not too exciting compared with other Capitol Reef hikes, but without a question your dog will love it, and it’s a decent walk that has some nice views.
This dog-friendly trail in Capitol Reef National Park connects the Fruita Campground and the visitor center, with the Gifford House, Blacksmith Shop, and picnic area along the way. The trail begins where the Fremont River Trail (above) ends and heads the other way towards the visitor center. Total distance is 1.4 miles between the two points.
Starting at the campground, the first half-mile of the trail is lush and green and winds along the river. The next 0.9-mile section follows along the road on a path that’s exposed and arid. The Blacksmith Shop is on the dry side of the trail just about where the desert becomes an oasis (near the picnic area); the Gifford House and barn are on the green side of the trail.
If you’re driving into the park, I’d recommend starting at the picnic area or Gifford Homestead (vs. the visitor center) just because it’s the more scenic part of the trail, plus the lot at the visitor center has limited capacity anyway. The historical sites are a short walk away (see the map for details). Large vehicle parking is available at the larger lot by the Fruita Barn.
#4 Fruita orchards
There are many fruit orchards in the park’s historic district which are the original orchards started by the Mormon pioneers in the late 1800s. The orchards contain around 2,000 fruit trees today (apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, and more).
Dogs are allowed in unfenced and/or unlocked orchards.
Wanna try some fruit? YOU CAN. For free!
If you come in the harvest season, you can eat as much fruit as you please for *FREE* from the orchards marked for picking. Besides fruit, they grow several nut varieties here. A small fee applies for anything you take to-go.
(It can’t hurt to double check at the visitor center which orchards are open for picking and whether your dog is allowed inside. In the meantime, take a look at the orchard guide for details.)
Fun fact: The National Park Service still utilizes the original irrigation system designed by the pioneers – a series of ditches that divert water into the orchards from the river and a nearby creek.
#5 Picnic areas
There are two picnic areas in the Fruita Historic District of Capitol Reef National Park that are dog-friendly – Doc Inglesby Picnic Area, and a smaller lot across the road – Chesnut Picnic Area (yup that’s spelled correctly).
There are plenty of trees to keep you comfortable even on a hot summer day, and picnic tables, water, and restrooms are available. Parking is available on the Doc Inglesby side.
From here you can easily access several historic buildings by following a dog-friendly footpath across the road (#3 – Dog-friendly trails in Capitol Reef National Park/Fruita Trail).
#6 Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
The Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive is dog-friendly as are all public roads in the park. You’ll just need to be mindful of the park’s rule of keeping your dog within 50 feet of the center lane of the road along the pullouts.
The scenic drive starts at the visitor center and travels past the central green oasis of Fruita deeper into the park towards its southern section while offering some of the most stunning scenery there is in Capitol Reef. It also serves as a route to two popular Capitol Reef hikes (Grand Wash/Cassidy Arch and Capitol Gorge), neither of which are dog-friendly.
The first 7.9 miles (12.7 km) are on a paved road, followed by 2 miles on a dirt road to the Capitol Gorge trailhead (Capitol Gorge Road). You won’t be able to hike Capitol Gorge with your dog, but the drive itself to the trailhead is STUNNING and well worth it! (Though if you aren’t traveling solo, it’s worth taking turns watching your dog and going a short distance on the flat and easy Capitol Gorge Trail to see old pioneer carvings on the canyon walls.)
The entire drive from the visitor center to the Capitol Gorge trailhead (paved road + dirt spur) will take you about 30 minutes (one way). This is the only area in Capitol Reef where a national park fee is required for entry.
The dirt section of the scenic drive (Capitol Gorge Road) is accessible to most vehicles and is suitable for RVs up to 27 feet in length, per the National Park Service.
THIS AREA IS PRONE TO FLASH FLOODING. If you’re visiting in the summer monsoon season (July to September), stop by the visitor center and check the forecast and condition of the road before leaving.
Dog-friendly areas near Capitol Reef National Park
Have more time to roam? Here is a list of areas near Capitol Reef National Park where dogs are permitted with no or minimal restrictions:
- Dixie National Forest
- Fishlake National Forest
- Goblin Valley State Park
- San Rafael Swell
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Things to know before visiting Capitol Reef National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park is located in south-central Utah between the towns of Torrey and Hanksville in a cluster of popular national parks. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park are a little over 2 hours away; Zion National Park is 4 hours away.
- There are no services in the park (fruit pies – when available – are as close to a meal as it gets here). The closest town to Capitol Reef National Park is Torrey, Utah, located 11 miles west of the visitor center.
- Capitol Reef National Park has NO admission fees except for the scenic drive ($20 per vehicle if you don’t have an annual pass). A self-pay station is located along the scenic drive just south of the Fruita Campground. The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day.
- Best time to visit: Capitol Reef is at its busiest from April through June, and September to October. Summers are hot, and monsoon rains in late summer to early fall are common.
- As for any dangerous animals or predators that could pose a threat to your dog (or to you), Capitol Reef National Park is home to the venomous midget faded rattlesnake. Mountain lions also call this place home, but you’re unlikely to cross paths with one in the developed areas of the park where dogs are allowed.
- There are no kennels in the park, and you can’t leave your dog unattended at the campground. If you want to explore some of the parts of Capitol Reef that are off-limits to dogs, the closest kennel boarding facility is Color Country Animal Welfare in Torrey, Utah (your dog must be current on shots and fixed).
- Be aware of dog-friendly areas of Capitol Reef National Park, and if in doubt, don’t hesitate to confirm with one of the park rangers where your dog is allowed to be. Remember to keep your dog leashed on your visit the entire time (no more than 6 feet) and please remove all pet waste and dispose of it properly.
- If you have to leave your dog in the car at any point (there is a short walk to a petroglyph panel just EAST of the Fruita Schoolhouse you may be able to stop by), make it very brief and leave the windows generously open to avoid heat stroke.
You can go over the park’s pet policy here. Have a paw-some trip visiting Capitol Reef National Park with your dog!